Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Golden Retriever is a dog breed originally created for hunting purposes in wooded areas or near the lakes of Scotland. Given the role that these dogs had in hunting activities, namely recovering the prey, their mouth is developed in such way that it cannot further injure the dead animal.

Therefore, if a person is bitten by a Golden Retriever, he or she should not have a severe wound. However, these dogs are so tender that the possibility of biting a person is almost zero. The intelligence and the versatility of this dog breed were factors that helped them diversity their activities over time. Besides the fact that it loves to be in and around water, the Golden Retriever now serves as narcotics detector, rescuer of people and as emotional therapist. Among the most popular dog breeds in the world, they have a great desire to please their owners.

Breed Characteristics

TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Sporting Dogs
Height:1 foot, 9 inches to 2 feet, 1 inch tall at the shoulder
Weight:50 to 70 pounds
Life Span:10 to 12 years

The Golden Retriever is a medium sized dog admired by hunters for its diligence and robustness and for its ability to hunt both on land and in water, but especially for its overall athletic qualities. Besides its other characteristics, this dog breed is appreciated for its gentle temperament and the ease of getting along with all kinds of people. The Golden Retriever is recognized by 12 canine clubs, among which are the American Kennel Club, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the American Canine Registry and the Canadian Kennel Club.

The Golden Retriever dog breed is divided into 2 groups based on their appearance. The first group is the English version, which is shorter, with larger bones and a tendency to have a lighter coat color. The US version tends to have longer and thinner limbs, with features much like the original ones. Besides these differences, the other features stay the same. However, they might be influenced by genetic factors or/and environmental factors.

Main Highlights
  • The Golden Retriever was created in Britain in the nineteenth century. Lord Tweedmouth wanted a loyal, gentle and full of energy dog. This dog breed is a symbol of beauty and intelligence in the canine world.
  • The Golden Retriever is an intelligent dog that oozes charm and confidence. It hates to be left alone and it has the tendency to become anxious and destroy everything around it when it has no company.
  • This type of dog is always gentle with children and friendly with other animals. It barks often in order to express gratitude. It is not recommended for people who work a lot, because it needs an owner to spend time with it.
  • This dog breed needs daily exercise. It likes to play fetch or with play with other toys. It likes to move around a lot, but it becomes inactive if kept in an apartment.
  • Bird hunters love Golden Retrievers because they are capable to memorize where the birds fall and in which order.
  • It grows up physically and mentally quite late. At about 12 to14 months their physical shape is defined, but they will probably still gain weight for 1 more year. Mentally, they think and act like puppies for 2 years after birth.
  • The Golden Retriever is not aggressive, but it is a good guard that will announce the arrival of a visitor or a stranger by barking. It might attack only if it feels in danger.
  • A defining characteristic of this dog breed are the ears. They are big, sharp and always kept beside the head in a lowered position. The tail is bushy, long and almost always held up high.
Breed History

The Golden Retriever dog breed appeared during the nineteenth century as a result of crossbreeding the Tweed Water Spaniel with the Newfoundland, the Irish Setter and several other varieties of spaniel. Mr. Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Tweedmouth Lord in Inverness, Scotland, wanted to obtain a type of dog breed able to gather the large number of birds shot by hunters. He focused on creating a wise, loyal, lively and energetic dog that liked to be in and around water and that had hunting skills as well.

Until the book written by Lord Tweedmouth was discovered in 1952, people believed that the Golden Retriever was coming from a Russian circus troupe that Lord Tweedmouth had previously met in 1858. It is said that he was so impressed by the intelligence and the appearance of these dogs that he bought all 8 that were available and took them in his estate in Scotland where he used them for chasing deer.

However, in 1952, the sixth Count of Ilchester, grandson of Lord Tweedmouth, revealed the information contained in a book from 1835 about all the dogs from Guisachan. In addition, apparently Lord Tweedmouth purchased a golden puppy from a shoemaker. He picked the golden copy out of a lot of black and curly ones. He named the dog Nous, which is considered the founder of the Golden Retriever dog breed.

In 1868, Nous was matted with a female Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle, which gave birth to 4 yellow females named Crocus, Cowslip, Primrose and Ada. Next, he kept Cowslip for himself and gave the other 3 ones to his friends, relatives and neighbors. He continued his inbreeding activities for 20 years during which he obtained dogs that were great hunters.

The Golden Retriever arrived in North America in 1890 thanks to the Americans that went to the UK to visit. Lord Harcourt is the person who first named this dog breed, in 1908, which was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in 1913.

Moreover, in 1932, the Golden Retriever was recognized by the American Kennel Club and in 1938 was founded the Golden Retriever of America Club. Over the years, the Golden Retriever became a very popular dog breed because of its impressive characteristics like docility, love, strength, hunting ability, intelligence and special attachment towards its owners.


The Golden Retriever is a medium to large sized dog. While males measure 23 to 24 inches tall, females are less tall, measuring 21.5 to 22.5 inches at the shoulder. These dogs reach their height maturity after 1 year of life and their weight maturity by the age of 2. As for their weight, males weigh 65 to 75 pounds and females between 55 to 65 pounds.

Personality and Character

The Golden Retriever seems to be an ideal dog. Like its cousin, the Labrador, this dog breed is never aggressive. It is natively docile and it accepts that man is its owner and must be respected. Very popular in Scotland for its hunting skills, the Golden Retriever is consistently in the top 5 most beloved companion dogs for families. Known for their highly developed emphatic ability, these dogs are considered perfect for families.

They are calm, obedient, playful, intelligent, mannered and understanding with children and strangers. They are also used as guard dogs, but they love people too much to be aggressive. Loving, well-mannered, intelligent, captivating, loyal, trustworthy are just a few of this dog breed’s qualities.

If a Golden Retriever participates in championships or competitions, then it is certainly is among the highest ranked to win. Hunters are also very happy with this dog breed because it is doing very well with venison, have a highly developed sense of smell and like working with people. They are happy if they can take part in the activities of their owners, whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. If left alone for long periods, especially if they lack exercises, the Golden Retriever dogs may develop anxiety, which usually leads to a destructive behavior.

Because they love to chew and chew everything they catch, it is advisable to offer them a lot of toys. This dog type must always be the center of attention of people in order to be completely happy.

If people isolate them or leave them alone for long periods of time, they can become mischievous and disobedient. They can be exuberant and destructive when they get bored. Among the Golden Retriever’s talents are hunting, tracking, recovery of various items, narcotics detection, guidance of persons with disabilities (blind, deaf), agility and acumen. In addition, they are also very good swimmers.

Health and Potential Problems

According to the concept that everything beautiful is also fragile, the Golden Retriever dogs are characterized by beauty, but also by a few medical sensibilities. However, they are not among the sickest dogs. The diseases that can affect them may have serious implications or endanger their life. With proper care and preventive nourishment, a Golden Retriever dog may even exceed 14 to 15 years of life. Regularly, life expectancy is placed at a good rate, approximately 11 to 12 years.

  • Hip dysplasia. This is a skeletal problem that consists of an abnormal development of the dog’s hip joint. The head of the femur bone is not properly integrated in the dog’s hip because it grows abnormally. This results in intense pain and difficulty in walking. In time, hip malformations lead to the emergence and development of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Elbow dysplasia. The 3 bones that make up the shoulder grow abnormally. The cartilage friction makes the dog’s shoulder weak. This problem usually leads to a painful type of arthritis. In both cases of dysplasia, depending on the stage of the disease, the vet can intervene with surgery in order to improve the state of the affected joints. In general, anti-inflammatory medication is prescribed.
  • Cataracts. This affection occurs in the same manner and for the same reasons as in humans. In dogs and often in case of Golden Retrievers, it occurs at young ages and it is called juvenile cataract. The latter is hereditary and is more complicated to treat. In general, there are a few surgical techniques that can be applied and that had great results.
  • Distichiasis and trichiasis. These 2 are eyeball diseases are related to eyelash insertion and orientation. In case of distichiasis, the eyelashes grow abnormally and end up irritating the eyeball. In case of trichiasis, the eyelashes develop normally, but the eyelids have unusual shapes that generate the same effects. In both cases correction is possible with surgery.
  • Aortic stenosis. It is a cardiac complication that consists of a narrow connection between the left ventricle and the aorta. In time, this problem can cause cardiac arrest. It can be detected by a specialist in certain circumstances, but the diagnosis can be set only as a result of an ultrasound observation. Fainting is a sign of this disease. Unfortunately, death can occur suddenly without any warning signs.
  • Allergies. In case of this dog breed, allergies can be triggered by many factors, such as contact allergies, allergies caused by infestation with parasites, food allergies and so on. Statistically speaking and taking into account the skin sensitivity demonstrated by the Golden Retrievers, their allergies are triggered by flea bites. The solutions are various shampoos and sprays.
  • Von Willebrand. This is a blood disorder that has similar effects with hemophilia. The blood antigens do not help in the coagulation process, so the blood platelets are insufficiently used for this important process. Dogs affected by this disease have prolonged episodes of bleeding in case of injury or postoperative sequences.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This is a general medical term that refers to a heart muscle disease. There are different types of cardiomyopathy with a high incidence rate in case of Golden Retrievers.
  • Others. Hypothyroidism occurs when the body of a dog cannot maintain the correct levels of thyroid hormones, while narcolepsy is a neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to achieve a regular pattern in terms of waking up and falling asleep. A dog with this disease will suddenly become sleepy and fall asleep immediately.
Care Features

The Golden Retriever is one of the most trainable dog breeds. Dogs belonging to this breed are very intelligent, have a good memory and are always eager to please their owners. Because they have a high energy level, their training sessions are not difficult.

They learn quickly and are always willing to learn new things. As a reward, their owners have to make them feel appreciated. At the end of every training session, the owners should reward their dogs regardless of the obtained results. In order to develop properly, training must begin at a young age, as well as socialization with both people and other animals.

If the purpose of dressage is only to have a balanced family dog that is obedient, then the training can be done by the owner. Otherwise it is indicated to visit a specialized instructor who will know how to highlight all the skills and qualities of this dog breed.

The Golden Retriever should be treated gently because it is an animal that does not respond well to harsh treatment or discipline. The biggest problem that people have encountered with these dogs is walking with a leash on. However, it is one of the most versatile dog breeds that can be used in many activities, such as hunting, various competitions, police, guidance, therapy and companionship.

Because of their high energy level, these dogs should be raised in a home with a medium or large yard in order to move freely. However, they can adapt to a life in an apartment if they exercise properly every day. They can adapt to any climate conditions too and can even be held outside at night. They become almost inactive if held inside a house or apartment. Given that they like to play fetch, it is easy to play with them as they don’t get bored fast. Exercising is absolutely necessary because they have a tendency to gain weight.

Feeding Schedule

When they are puppies, Golden Retrievers should eat 3 times per day. Switching from junior food to adult food should be done at the age of 4 to 6 months. That is also when you should start feeding your dog 2 times per day. Females usually eat between 3 and 4 cups of dry dog food per day, while males can eat up to 5 cups per day. You should leave the food bowl at your dog’s disposal for maximum 20 minutes.

Also, you should feed your dog 1 or 2 hours before you go to bed. Golden Retrievers have a tendency to gain weight, so try not to give your dog too many snacks or feed it your table scraps. Establish a feeding schedule and stick to it.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Golden Retriever has 2 layers of coat that are cold-resistant and waterproof. The outer layer is slightly coarse and it can be wavy or straight. It has longer hair on its tail and legs. The interior layer is soft and smooth to the touch.

The color of its coat is intense, bright, with many shades that go from beige to golden. These dogs suffer from moderate coat changes during summer and winter and go through major changes during spring and autumn. A Golden Retriever will leave a lot of hair behind, in your house and on your clothes. In order to lose less hair, these dogs must be brushed almost daily.

A Golden Retriever should benefit from regular brushing with a brush made of pig hair. If possible, this ritual should be repeated once a day, paying particular attention to its soft hair from the interior layer. Brushing helps maintain a healthy and shiny coat and reduces hair loss. While brushing your dog, you have the opportunity to look for wounds, mites and so on. When this dog sheds, it is mandatory to brush it daily. Fortunately, this is not the type of dog that likes to dig holes, so it stays clean longer. As for washing, it should be done once per month with special dog shampoo.

Their ears and eyes should be checked and cleaned regularly in order to prevent infections. Their ears are susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. It is therefore important to check them periodically, keep them hygienic and be alert to any signs of infection, excessive scratching, shaking of the head and so on. Be prepared to visit the veterinarian whenever you suspect a peculiar odor or see injuries. You should be aware that if not treated in time, these infections can lead to hearing loss.

Dental care should not be forgotten either. It is best to brush these dogs’ teeth with a toothbrush, at least several times per week in order to remove stone deposits. Nails should also be groomed at least once a month. Cutting a dog’s nails is a tricky process because they contain blood vessels and if you happen to trim nails too deep, the dog will bleed and not stay put in the future.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Golden Retriever is gentle, intelligent and loving, facts which make it one of the best choices for families with children because it gets attached to children. Due to the adorable nature of the Golden Retriever, it has experienced success in recent years.

This type of dog is not at all aggressive. It is affectionate and very friendly with children and with strangers. It easily accommodates to any lifestyle and has a lot of patience. It feels very well in the company of its owners and their children, being a great partner to play with. It gets along well with other dogs, cats or other animals in the household. Females are known for being great mothers to other species. Always ready to do tricks on everyone, this dog is very tender.

As seen, the Golden Retriever is a very special dog breed. If you are a happy and active person and you like to move around a lot and be surrounded by positive agitation, then this is the right dog for you! Usually, people who cannot stay upset for a long time want friends around them and have a clear tendency to socialize.

The Golden Retriever is just the same, not to mention that it is not exclusive and interacts nicely with all the members of a family, as well as with relatives and friends. Lonely people will always find an energetic companion that will make everything bad go away in such a dog. It is also ideal because it favors outdoors activities and it is a fantastic emotional therapist!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.